PLANTS FOR PONDS

Six of the best ‘wa­ter won­ders’ for your pond

Amateur Gardening - - This Week In Amateur Gardening -

IT doesn’t mat­ter whether it’s a raised pond, a sunken pool or a tra­di­tional gar­den pond, a small body of wa­ter is guar­an­teed to trans­form your out­door space. Wa­ter makes a fan­tas­tic fo­cal point, as it casts re­flec­tions and adds move­ment, while the gen­tle splish-splash from a foun­tain will help you un­wind af­ter a stress­ful day.

Yet all too of­ten what could be an awe­some fea­ture that will add in­ter­est all year round, is let down by poor plant­ing or, in some cases, a com­plete lack of plants. It doesn’t have to be this way, though. There are loads of wa­tery won­ders to suit any style of pond, and fol­low­ing the ar­rival of warmer weather the gar­den cen­tres will be fully stocked with plants that can be planted dur­ing the spring.

For my money, hav­ing a pond is a good ex­cuse to grow a whole range of plants that pre­fer their roots in wa­ter, but there are plenty of other good rea­sons why it’s worth stock­ing wa­ter fea­tures with aquat­ics. For a start, they help to keep wa­ter free of al­gae, pro­vide oxy­gen and act like a mag­net to all sorts of crea­tures.

A well-planted pool can con­tain six dif­fer­ent types of aquatic plants; wa­terlilies, deep-wa­ter aquat­ics, float­ing aquat­ics, sub­merged plants, mar­ginal plants and bog plants. Of course, not ev­ery­one will have the space to in­tro­duce all th­ese, but even the small­est pond can ac­com­mo­date at least three dif­fer­ent groups.

As a rule, aim to cover at least a third of the pond’s sur­face with fo­liage to pro­vide shade and keep the wa­ter cool, which will pre­vent al­gae from flour­ish­ing in warm, light con­di­tions. Wa­ter lilies are one of the best plants for quick sur­face cover, as their float­ing pads and el­e­gant blooms will light up gar­dens from late spring un­til the first frosts.

Some plants are ram­pant beasts that are only suit­able for lakes, but plenty are much bet­ter be­haved, en­joy­ing depths rang­ing from 6in (15cm) to 6ft (1.8m). Minia­ture wa­ter lilies are so com­pact they can even be grown in con­tainer ponds, while pink ‘James Bry­don’ and scented ‘Perry’s Dou­ble White’ are happy in wa­ter around 2½ft (76cm) deep.

While not as sexy, sub­merged aquat­ics sup­ply a valu­able role in the over­all health of the pond, pro­vid­ing habi­tats for wildlife and help­ing to

oxy­genate the wa­ter. Of­ten sold in small bunches, th­ese need pot­ting into small con­tain­ers or weigh­ing down to pre­vent them mov­ing un­der­wa­ter. Among th­ese plants are spiked wa­ter mil­foil (Myrio­phyl­lum spi­ca­tum), star­wort (Cal­litriche stag­nalis) and horn­wort (Cer­ato­phyl­lum de­mer­sum).

Mar­ginal plants are prob­a­bly the most valu­able group, be­cause they pro­vide colour and in­ter­est all year round. Th­ese in­clude damp-lov­ing peren­ni­als that are happy with their roots in wet mud or 1in (2.5cm) or so of wa­ter, although most will put up with their crowns be­ing sub­merged by as much as 6in (15cm).

Wa­ter irises are the ‘glam­our girls’ of the group, with beau­ti­ful flow­ers and strik­ing fo­liage, while eq­ui­se­tum, dwarf reed mace and flow­er­ing rush add height. Glyc­e­ria max­ima var. var­ie­gata, Carex ri­paria ‘Var­ie­gata’ and sev­eral other grasses are ideal for adding bulk and quick cov­er­age.

Wa­ter lilies and deep-wa­ter aquat­ics are usu­ally sup­plied in mesh-sided aquatic con­tain­ers. Mar­ginal plants are likely to be in tra­di­tional solid-sided con­tain­ers and will need re­pot­ting into square or round mesh pots. Ei­ther swap for a sim­i­lar size or ar­range sev­eral in a larger planter – curved ones are ideal for plac­ing around the edges of an ir­reg­u­lar-shaped pond, while geo­met­ric pots are bet­ter in more for­mal ponds.

Once con­tain­ers have been planted up, lower them slowly into the pond, watch­ing air bub­bles rise as the com­post fills with wa­ter. Don’t dunk it in too quickly oth­er­wise gravel will be washed off the top. When plant­ing a mar­ginal con­tainer, stand it on bricks so the crown is just be­low the sur­face. If placed too deep, the plants will die.

Aim to cover at least a third of the pond’s sur­face with fo­liage to pro­vide shade and keep the wa­ter cool

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